So, your internship is over. Now what? Even though you may have ended your internship weeks (or even months) ago, there are still plenty of things you can be doing right now to help your professional career.
Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Get your resume reviewed. Hopefully you’ve already updated your resume (If you didn’t do this when you left your internship, there’s no time like the present!) to highlight your most recent professional experience. And, now that you’ve had some time to digest your internship experience and think more about the skills you gained and the impact your role had on your professional development, now is a great time to re-evaluate your resume.
And, if at all possible, you should have it evaluated by someone else — another pair of eyes will notice things that you missed when you edited it yourself. Make an appointment with an advisor at your university’s career center to talk things over. If that’s not an option, ask a mentor, past professor, or someone you trust in your professional network who can give you objective, constructive feedback.
2. Check in with your network. With the holidays coming up, now is the perfect time to reach out to your professional network and send everyone a quick update. It’s especially important that you include previous employers on this list. Send them a quick email or holiday card letting them know how school or work is going, and any life updates that you’re comfortable sharing. Ask them how they are and wish them a happy and healthy holiday and new year. Continue this process every few months — it’s wise to reconnect with your network 3-4 times per year to keep the conversation timely and relevant. If you don’t, you may regret it later! You never want one of your contacts to feel used by you — try not to reach out to people only when you need them. If you reach out when you don’t need a favor, you’ll be a lot better off when you actually do need one or need help.
3. Check in with yourself. Checking in with yourself is just as important as checking in with your network. Think back to the last evaluation you had at your internship. What constructive feedback or advice did you receive from your supervisor? How have you made an effort to better your skills or qualities based on that feedback? What challenges are you facing in trying to do so? What goals — professionally and personally — have you set for yourself? Where are you in terms of reaching those goals? These questions and others will help you stay on track and stay focused on what your short-term and long-term professional goals are. This isn’t a time to be self-critical or self-deprecating. Rather, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what’s important to you and what steps you’re taking or should be taking to get to where you want to be.
4. Keep growing your network. Have you been attending networking events when possible? When you attend professional functions or events, do you try to make a real, genuine connection with at least one person you meet? Have you been leveraging social media, particularly LinkedIn, to reach out to professionals in your industry for advice and insight into their careers?
If you already have a robust professional network, that’s great! But, there is always an opportunity to know more people and to learn from them. Don’t get complacent — now is a great time to put yourself out there. And, no one said you have to do this strictly by attending networking events. Consider volunteering for a local organization that relates to your industry, attend a speaker series at a local incubator or accelerator, or attend a webinar that interests you and connect with people online. Keep putting yourself out there to meet more contacts — taking the time to do so is certainly worth the benefit it can provide you in the long run.
5. Start thinking of your next steps. This isn’t a quick process, nor is it an easy one. If you’re still a student, start thinking about your next internship opportunity. Do some research to find out what types of opportunities you may be interested in, what types of opportunities are out there for someone with your academic experience, and what companies are out there that could be a wise next-step for you.
If you’re a recent graduate, think about what’s coming next. Where do you see yourself in a few years? How can you make that happen? What can you do now to set yourself up for success?
You don’t have to have all of the answers now about what you want to do in the future. Just remember to take the time to start the process now and be aware of the opportunities that are out there. If you do, you’ll be equipped to make an informed, thorough decision about the next step in your professional journey, whatever it may be.
Now that you have these tips to guide you, it’s time to get back out there and make the most of your time and resources post-internship! Good luck!